It may have narrowly missed out on being named the UK’s City of Culture but Paisley, Scotland’s biggest town, is still set for big things as it carries on its quest to celebrate culture.
The market town is packed with fantastic attractions, stunning architecture and exciting events, and will continue its mark on Scotland’s cultural calendar in 2018 and beyond.
Best known for its world famous Paisley Pattern, which was sewn into shawls produced by local weavers, this small market town grew to prominence at the centre of the global textile trade. Away from the weaves, workers led important conversations around social justice and fair employment.
The town centre has the highest concentration of listed buildings anywhere in Scotland outwith Edinburgh. Architectural gems include the 12th century Paisley Abbey, the grand neo-classical Paisley Town Hall, the newly-restored Russell Institute and the spectacular neo-Gothic Thomas Coats Memorial Baptist Church.
So here’s a short guide to Paisley’s cultural highlights:
Paisley Pattern shawls and Paisley Museum
Named as one of 25 objects to shape Scotland’s history, Paisley Pattern shawls symbolise a golden manufacturing era when Scotland, as an active player in the Industrial Revolution, capitalised on global demand for a product. Paisley became the epicentre of production for this particular item over the 19th century thanks to the skill of local weavers in replicating the complicated teardrop motif. The names of the town and the pattern became synonymous as the iconic Paisley Pattern design was favoured across the world, worn by figures from Queen Victoria to the Beatles. Paisley Museum has the world’s largest collection of Paisley shawls – a collection designated by experts as ‘internationally-significant’.
Dating back more than 850 years, the stunning Paisley Abbey is recognised as the cradle of the Royal House of Stewart. It is the birthplace of Robert II of Scotland, the first of the Stewart monarchs. His mother, Marjory Bruce – daughter of the famous Scottish king, Robert the Bruce – died at the historic site while giving birth to the future king. The Abbey became wealthy due to extensive trade with commercial centres in Europe. It was a centre of learning, and it is believed William Wallace was educated at the abbey by the monks. It also has a gargoyle that has been modelled to look like one of the monsters of the film ‘Alien’, thought to be the handiwork of a cheeky stone mason during refurbishment work in the 1990s, and a stained glass window by Daniel Cottier, who influenced Louis Comfort Tiffany.
Paisley’s Grand Fountain
Considered to be one of the best examples of a Scottish-made cast iron fountain, Paisley’s category A-listed Grand Fountain is the centrepiece to the beautiful Fountain Gardens. Standing at 10m tall, the fountain, which is adorned with an array of creatures and cherubs, was gifted to the people of Paisley by mill owner, Thomas Coats. The fountain was fully restored in 2015 and is the only fully function cast-iron fountain in Scotland.
Come face-to-face with some of Paisley’s VIPs in the town’s Brown’s Lane. The street has been transformed into a contemporary piece of art with surrounding buildings adorned with giant street-art murals depicting some of the town’s most famous exports, including Gerry Rafferty and Paolo Nutini.
The Sma’ Shot Cottages
This popular attraction offers a unique insight into two distinct periods of Paisley’s textile history, transporting visitors back into the 18th century into a typical weaver’s cottage , originally built in the 1750s. Within the weaver’s cottage, you will find the original weaving looms and learn about the origins of the Sma’ Shot Day celebration held in July each year.
Part of the Paisley Museum complex, Coats Observatory is the oldest public observatory in the country, dating back to 1883. As well as the astronomical work, daily weather readings are taken and the observatory had also served as a seismic recording centre monitoring earthquakes worldwide, including the famous 1906 San Francisco quake.
Paisley: The Secret Collection
Paisley is unveiling a treasure trove of objects with the UK’s first publicly accessible Museum Store on a High Street. Paisley: The Secret Collection will house tens of thousands of items from Renfrewshire’s collections in a purpose-built publicly-accessible storage unit in a former retail property. The collection includes some of Paisley’s world-famous textiles, plus a mix of ceramics, world cultures, social history, art and sculpture, natural history and local archives – with many of those items unseen by the general public in decades or longer.
Major events programme
Paisley has a growing reputation for staging a number of major events attracting regional, national and international audiences to experience a culturally-vibrant town.
Highlights include Weave (July), a two-day cultural festival wrapped around the town’s traditional Sma’ Shot celebrations and celebrating its roots in both textiles and radicalism; The Spree (October) multi-arts festival, now a major fixture in Scotland’s cultural calendar, which has an attractively-varied programme of music, drama and dance, and this year featured a homecoming show by Paolo Nutini.
The town has also secured a number of other major events. Having won the right to host the British Pipe Band Championships from 2016-2018, Paisley has recently learned it will again hear the skirl of the pipes and the beat of the drums when the championships return for another three-year run from 2019-2021. The town has also won the right to host the Royal National Mòd in either 2021 or 2022, having previously staged this famous showcase of Gaelic culture in 2013 in one of its most successful stagings.
Paisley Burns Club
Paisley Burns Club was founded in 1805 and is the world’s oldest formally constituted Burns Club. The club meets in its premises in Queen St Paisley – a cottage once owned by Paisley’s world-famous poet and songwriter Robert Tannahill. Tannahill was also the founder and first secretary of Paisley Burns Club.
For more inspiration about things to see and do in Paisley visit: www.visitscotland.com/info/towns-villages/paisley-p237371
For more information about the Paisley visit : http://www.paisley2021.co.uk/